Exercise is great for your physique. You know it can help you build muscle and burn fat. What you might not know is that the true value of exercise transcends aesthetics.
The right training program can help prevent the most dangerous diseases, extend lifespan, boost your mood, and improve your brain function. A regular workout program is even associated with a higher income!
With all these benefits, it’s unbelievable that the vast majority of the population is still not taking advantage of this simple, yet effective method for improving their well being! To convince you and everyone you love to get started, here are the ten best reasons to exercise.
#1: Improve Heart Function
Exercise has a profoundly beneficial effect on the health of the heart and the blood vessels, making the heart more powerful so it ejects more oxygenated blood with each contraction. It also improves the flexibility of blood vessels and lowers inflammation, helping to prevent heart disease.
#2: Lower Blood Pressure
Because exercise increases the working muscles’ demand for oxygen, it improves the release of compounds like nitric oxide that dilate blood vessels that helps them stay flexible and healthy. A side effect is lower resting blood pressure. The key to get significant reductions in blood pressure is to go higher in either intensity or volume so that you get a lot of work done: Both interval training and circuit training with weights are two efficient ways of making this happen.
#3: Improve Reproductive Health
Exercise is especially effective at improving reproductive health and libido in people who are overweight or have diabetes because of how it balances hormones, boosting low testosterone and optimizing the cortisol curve. The key is to not overdo it—too much endurance exercise in particular has a markedly negative effect on reproductive hormones. Get the best results from four 60-minute weight workouts and two short (about 20 minutes) interval workouts a week.
#4: Overcome Depression
You know that training can make you feel good once you’re done, boosting mood even if you aren’t depressed. Interestingly, exercise appears to be especially good for overcoming depression because it improves balance of neurotransmitters involved in depression. Not only does it help lower cortisol (a stress hormone commonly linked to depressive feelings when chronically elevated), it leads to the release of beta-endorphins and dopamine, which can help balance brain chemistry. All types of exercise will be beneficial, but intense training such as weights or intervals may be most effective.
#5: Improve Brain Function & Learning
Exercise leads to the release of a “brain health” protein called BDNF that acts in the part of the brain that is involved in learning and memory. It promotes the development of new nerves and synapses, which lead to better recall, increased spatial memory function, and enhanced learning. Comfortable exercise such as walking appears to be most effective for improving learning.
#6: Stronger Bones
Strength training is overwhelmingly the best activity to build bone mass and density. It also improves muscle strength, which means you’ll have better balance and a faster brain—muscle connection to help prevent trips or falls. To improve bone you want to train regularly with heavier weights. Plyometric exercises, such as jumping, and wearing a weight vest are also ideal for bone development.
#7: Improve Body Composition
Intermittent forms of exercise that intersperse burses of strenuous exercise with rest, such as weight training and intervals, have a powerful effect on improving body composition because they convey the dual benefits of building muscle and reducing body fat. Because you overload the body during work bouts, you increase protein synthesis so that the body gains muscle, while also improving your level of fat burning so that you achieve a leaner body composition.
#8: Increase Insulin Sensitivity & Prevent Diabetes
Exercise increases your muscles’ requirement for energy, allowing for better disposal of glucose (which is what gets out of balance in your bloodstream when you have diabetes). Additionally, exercise builds muscle, increasing the number of insulin receptor sites you have, while automatically boosting the sensitivity of your cells to insulin (a hormone that helps the body burn glucose for energy).
#9: Protect You From Stress
Abundant studies show that regular exercise is protective against stress. For example, one marker of chronic stress is the length of something called telomeres that are at the ends of chromosomes. The length of your telomeres is inversely related to lifespan—the longer the better. People who exercise regularly and experience chronic psychological stress have longer telomeres than those who don’t exercise but are under comparable amounts of stress.
#10: Increase Your Income
Possibly the most surprising benefit of working out is that you are likely to earn more money if you exercise regularly. Researchers believe exercise enhances a person’s performance at work by improving their perseverance when facing obstacles. It increases their desire to partake in competitive situations. Goal oriented behaviors and higher self-esteem has been linked to exercising, and of course, the cognitive boost we get from exercise may play a role as well.
How To Get Started:
If you’re new to exercise, it’s important you get off to the right start. We recommend starting a strength training program because it’s fun and will improve every physiological system in your body. Ideally, you want to train 4 days a week for one hour, doing 6 compound exercises, using weights that challenge you for 8 to 15 reps per set. Bench press, pull downs (or chin-ups), overhead press, lunges, step-ups, squats, deadlifts, and rows are all excellent exercises to include in your training program.
You can also include interval training or some form of low-intensity exercise like brisk walking a few days a week. Intervals are great for fat loss and walking is a useful tool to counter stress and promote recovery.